Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy is confident the void left by cruciate victim Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher can be filled, even if the 29-year old had been “in full flow” this summer.
Sheedy said management will not seek a like-for-like replacement or ask whichever player is parachuted into the half-forward line to replicate the “unique” approach offered by Bonner, but is satisfied his panel is of sufficient depth to absorb this injury setback.
Maher landed awkwardly on his knee approaching half-time in Sunday’s Munster SHC victory over Limerick, with an MRI scan on Monday confirming a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
The two-time All-Star was among Tipperary’s leading performers across their unbeaten round-robin campaign and had been, arguably, their best player on Sunday before succumbing to a season-ending injury.
Sheedy described Maher’s recent contributions as “exceptional” but was adamant that his departure presents an opportunity for another player to step up to the mark.
“I’m devastated and gutted for Bonner,” the Tipperary boss remarked.
“What he has brought to the team over the last number of weeks has been exceptional. He has been a really strong player for us. He was in full flow and a Bonner in full flow is a very difficult man to mark. I’m gutted for him on a personal level, but the show must go on.
“He is a unique sort of player, but there are other guys that are young and champing at the bit so we’re not looking to replace a Bonner with a Bonner, you don’t do that. You are looking to know if you can get the next guy to step in and play to their level. I am absolutely happy we will find that player.”
Sheedy continued: “Everybody knows the importance of the strength of the unit and can the panel manage to deal with this? We lost James Barry in the match against Clare and Barry Heffernan steps in. So we have experience of where we have had to deal with losses. The real strength of this unit is going to be tested against the league and All-Ireland champions.”
For that Munster final against Limerick on Sunday week, where Tipperary will give chase to a first provincial crown since 2016, Sheedy, on top of Maher’s loss, will have to plan without corner-back Cathal Barrett — two players who started all four of their championship outings to date.
Barrett picked up a hamstring knock two minutes before Maher’s cruciate blow at Semple Stadium over the weekend. The full extent of damage done to the defender’s hamstring is not yet known.
“I can’t see Cathal being ready for Sunday week. It’s not the first time Cathal has pulled a hamstring. If I get good news, I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but I couldn’t see it. But that presents a massive chance for two other players to step in and that should make training really intense for the next number of nights, which is a good thing and a positive.
“Again, we’ve had guys come in. Seán O’Brien hadn’t played the last two games and did very well [against Limerick].
Tipp forward Niall O’Meara, who has not figured since limping out of their opening day dismissal of Cork with a hamstring injury, is likely to be back in contention for Munster final involvement.
“Niall wasn’t fit enough to make the 26 [last Sunday], so it’s a big 10 days for him, but he’s showing all the right signs. We’d feel he’s back full training this week and available for selection the following week would be the plan. We have the next few nights’ training to get through and we probably won’t know until we get past the weekend and ready for Tuesday night.”
Dalo's Hurling Show: Clare conspiracies. Cork go third and multiply? The Bonner blow. Did Galway miscalculate?
Ken Hogan, Ger Cunningham and Michael Moynihan review the weekend's hurling drama with Anthony Daly